Ayrshire Post

Council to buy Hourstons

- EXCLUSIVE STUART WILSON

Collapsed shopping giant Hourstons is set for a council takeover, the Post can exclusivel­y reveal.

A £ 680,000 rescue package was set to be rubber stamped in secret on Tuesday morning.

The Alloway Street store was plunged into liquidatio­n in March with the loss of 70 jobs.

But South Ayrshire officials want to save the prime retail space as part of their plans to build an Olympic- sized swimming pool in the town

centre.

A new £ 40 million leisure complex is projected to open next door on the site of the Arran Mall by 2023.

And officers reckon the Hourstons site can play a key part in the project’s developmen­t.

A senior insider told the Post: “Nobody wants to see Hourstons rotting in the centre of our town, so this is news that has to be welcomed.

“However, it means we simply must deliver on our promise to build the new leisure centre.

“Otherwise we will be left with a very expensive pig in a poke.”

Money for the buyout is to come from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Developmen­t Fund.

Councillor­s met behind closed doors to study the deal, and were set to approve the spend.

It marks a dramatic rescue for the store, founded by David Hourston in 1896.

The business was taken over by his two sons after his death in 1917.

By then its tearooms, smoking rooms and roof gardens had become famous across Scotland.

The business was sold to House of Fraser in 1949 and traded as Arnotts for a time. It came into its last ownership in 1993.

Speaking after the store’s liquidatio­n earlier this year, Eileen Blackburn, head of restructur­ing at French Duncan, said: “Hourstons battled against the changing retail environmen­t but this is a story being told on the high streets of many of our town and city centres as a lot of traditiona­l retailers close because of major consumer changes.

“Local councils need to look at ways to assist retailers, casual dining outlets and other stalwarts to ensure that city centres remain attractive to consumers in the years to come.”

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